Now this is sure to put a bee in the bonnet of tech analysts who say that tablets are just a phase. Marketing and research firm IHS has just confirmed that shipments of RAM modules for use in desktop and laptop computers have dived down significantly and have dropped to 49% worldwide, a first for the market since the 1980’s.
IHS believes that by this time next year, shipments will have dropped to around 42%, six percent below what the market is currently commanding. You can attribute this drop to the surge in popularity of smartphones and tablets, currently accounting for 2.7% and 12.5% respectively. They’re obviously not accounting for which modules are shipped, but number spinning is what the firm is best known for. Still, everyone else reporting on this is still punting that “post-PC era” stuff like its a real thing.
Sure, we live in a digital age totally different from the one we were in back in 2002. Back then our technologies, standards and applications were the best they could be, but today they’re primitive in comparison. We didn’t have pocketable smartphones and the internet wasn’t as prevalent and socially-minded either. Today we have it literally at our fingertips and all our hardware is orders of magnitude more powerful than the stuff we were playing with in 2002.
But its not a post-PC era. The popularity of smartphones and tablets is just an extension of the two markets that they originated from – older smartphones and laptops. Mobile devices get more and more portable and capable as time passes, yet the PC just continues to become smaller, more efficient and remains in the same place in your home, office environment or your gaming pad. Its really not going anywhere.
The PC is still the cornerstone of software development, content creation and media consumption. I’m not writing this on my phone or tablet, I’m doing it in on a PC because its far more suited to the job. The only reason why there’s less innovation and less in the way of performance improvements is because its a mature technology, the same way that tablets are already maturing (there’s really nothing more you can do with a slate design, its all up to the software now). The PC has, however, already overcome the wall of maturity and moved onto other things – the rise in popularity in small home media servers, ITX and nettop systems and All-in-Ones is a sign that this isn’t a post-PC era, anything but.
We’ve rather moved into what I call the “PC-plus era”, where your main computer is still complemented by a range of mobile and portable hardware that complements it, not replace it. Too many people were dissatisfied with the netbook craze because they didn’t understand that netbooks were complimentary computers, not full solutions on their own. Tablets will not replace the PC, laptops will not replace the PC and smartphones most definitely won’t become all-in-one solutions like ASUS hopes with the Padfone. Its close enough that we’ll see some adoption of this technology, however its unlikely to happen in the next few years. Perhaps in five year’s time we’ll see some more dockable solutions to take over from the PC, but for now the market is safe.
Oh, and IHS never mentioned which DRAM modules it was counting for their research. I think their 42% figure is correct, but for the wrong reasons – DRAM shipments may fall for computers, but that’s because they’re using modules that are larger in size and possibly embedding them into the circuit boards like Apple is doing for their new Macbook range. It won’t be too long now before 4GB is considered a paltry amount of RAM for a computer, with 8 or even 16GB being the norm.